In the comments on a recent post, Tim Maly mentioned that cool Sports Illustrated concept video that’s been making the rounds. And it occurred to me that right now, today, at this moment, we have before us two brand-new visions of the future of content that complement and contrast each other in interesting ways. One is beautiful; the other is both beautiful and the future.
The first is the SI video. To be clear: I think it’s really neat. Some of the ideas—that moving cover!—are sublime and many of the interactions are really clever. As a piece of design work, it’s wonderful.
But it’s not the future. You know, it actually reminds me of Apple’s old Knowledge Navigator video. Both deliver some cool ideas; Apple’s video was influential, and I think the SI video might have a ripple effect, too. But ultimately, both get it wrong because they imagine products that are too neat. There’s no chaos; there’s no life. This is the thing that’s great about the internet, right? The human vitality. This is what makes all of our favorite blogs worth reading; this is what keeps us glued to Twitter.
The SI video shows us how all the latest touchy-swipey interface technology maps to a magazine—beautifully!—but it turns back the clock on the content. The magazine of the future feels a bit too much like the magazine of the past: glossy, static, top-down.
Now contrast that to the just-launched Pictory. The reason I put these two visions together is that Pictory is a new sort of magazine too, in its way—and at a higher level, both the SI video and Pictory seem to be, at least in part, reactions to the general lameness of content design on the web. They both provide an alternative to content shrapnel.
The SI video demonstrates a cool new way to look at big, rich, well-designed content… and so does Pictory! But then Pictory goes a step further, because it’s also alive. It has a striking new look, but it still feels of the web. There are ways to join in. There are, like, links.
And also: Pictory is not just alive but live. As in, you can use it today, not just watch a YouTube video about it. I know that seems unfair to the SI video: “Dude, come on, it’s a D-E-M-O.” But it’s important! Product and process go together, and the process that works on the web is iteration. A live site beats a beautiful mockup, and in the time it takes Time Inc. to actually implement anything approaching the concept they’ve laid out in that video, Pictory will be learning… growing… improving.
And you know what? I think when those dream e-tablets finally do come along, from Apple or whoever, it’s going to be Pictory—and more new sites like Pictory, sites inspired by Pictory—that we’ll be reading on them.
But this actually ended up a bit more prescriptive than I intended. Mostly, I just think it’s interesting to juxtapose these two visions and notice what they have in common and where they part ways.